How I became a hockey fan – for life

April 14, 2003.

It’s a date arched in the darkest corner of my mind. The day that forever changed my life.

I was seven years old at the time, a first grader at a Catholic school in my home region in Northeast Pennsylvania. The previous day, my parents noticed that I wasn’t my usual self. Back then I was super energetic (and I still am…at least, at hockey games), but I recall spending the whole day laying down fatigued as all hell. But that day, that Monday, was where things…got bad. And life-threatening.

I woke up and started to get ready for school, sitting down to eat breakfast (which I vividly remember being Berry Burst Cheerios) looked just as fatigued as the day before despite getting (on paper) a good night’s sleep. I was a ghostly pale, and began to throw up. This alarmed my mom, who took me to a hospital in Scranton (~40 minutes away) thinking I had the flu.

It was much, much worse. My blood sugar was in the 900s. That sheer fatigue and sickness came from hyperglycemia (high blood sugar), not the flu. I was immediately diagnosed with diabetes, and things were serious. So serious that they wanted to airlift me to a hospital in Danville, a town about 60 miles southwest, but couldn’t – my organs were shutting down. I was basically in a coma at this state. Two days later came a near-death experience. I’d basically be in the hospital for about three weeks, with the exception of one weekend where I was sent home but wound up going back after some issues with low blood sugar.

When I came back to school after hospitalization, everything had changed. I was basically blacklisted from hanging out with people outside of school since no one wanted to deal with my diabetes (there was no education at that young of an age, and many of the parents had grown up in a time where we didn’t know as much as we do now). My childhood was basically over. It’s why I’ve long struggled in social situations. It wasn’t until midway through high school when I started regularly chilling with my friends outside of school again.

So what does this have to do with hockey? And why am I posting this now?

Well, growing up in NEPA, the big attraction in town was the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the American Hockey League. They came into town when I was three years old, and from the time I was five I was going to games, although I was more of a baseball fan back then (and really for much of my early childhood when it came to sports).

But I’m going to talk about one player on the team in 2003. His name was Toby Petersen. Petersen was a ninth round draft pick by the Penguins in 1998 out of Colorado College (see why I’m posting this now? kinda topical, I guess), where he played four years (he was NOT on the team that beat UVM in the Frozen Four semis, he came in a year later). But most importantly for this story, he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of five.

At the time, Petersen was living in a house leased to him by a friend of my grandfather’s. He had heard that I’d been diagnosed, and for the better part of a year he tried to set up some sort of meet-up between us. And then it finally happened. Sometime in late April 2004, we finally got to meet, and had dinner together at a TGI Friday’s in downtown Wilkes-Barre (well, I had dessert, since I’d already eaten). That night, Petersen told me (who had been struggling mentally due to people avoiding me like I was radioactive) something that would forever change my life. “Don’t ever let anyone tell you you can’t do something.” He also autographed my hat, gave me an autographed game-used stick, and took a picture of the two of us, autographing that as well. All of those remain back in Pennsylvania on my old bedroom’s wall.

That’s the night that I became a hockey fan forever. A man who scored a hat trick in the NHL believed that I could do anything. You have no idea how much of a morale boost that was. In 2005, my family got season tickets to the Penguins, which we would have for eight years. I may not have had friends that I hung out with outside of school, but I had hockey to bring me my childhood memories. I saw Andy Chiodo knock out Antero Niittymaki with one punch at center-ice. I saw Milwaukee raise the 2004 Calder Cup. I saw Dennis Bonvie crack 4000 AHL penalty minutes. I went to road games in Binghamton, Bridgeport, Hershey, and Philadelphia. I saw Tim Brent score in the last minute of a Game 7 to send WBS to the Calder Cup Finals. I watched countless future NHL players play for and against the Penguins.

Toby’s retired now, calling it a career after the 2013/14 season – which, coincidentally, was also my senior year of high school. He became a coach, and was an assistant on the Lake Erie team that won the 2016 Calder Cup and included former UVM captains Jaime Sifers and Mike Paliotta.

Ultimately, it’s because of Toby that I’m a huge hockey fan to this day. And this weekend, his alma mater comes to Gutterson.


Recap: UVM (M) 6, Waterloo 1

Now that’s how you start a season.

Okay, so it was a preseason game, and Waterloo’s not that great even by USports standards, but it’s nice to get early confidence, especially with so much roster turnover.

And the Cats came out flying – in the first minute, Ross Colton had the puck behind the net, sends it to Darrar who taps it home. Waterloo goalie Mike Morrison probably should’ve had that. But hey, I’m not a goalie, so my opinion probably is wrong.

The Cats’ power play was reaaaaaaally bad to start the game. And it showed as Waterloo’s lone goal was a shorty. Mitchell Smith with a laser that beat Stef Lekkas low to the far side. That’s the risk you take when you only have one D on the PP – if you screw up only one guy can get back and cover (Rob Darrar was playing the point next to Matt O’Donnell), and that exposes you a bit more.

But the Cats PP eventually woke up. In the last minute of the period, O’Donnell found Colton as the Lightning pick entered the zone. Colton slipped, but managed to get a beautiful pass back to O’Donnell, and the defender buried it. Beautiful play, and it put the Cats in front for good. Colton came off in pain, but  was able to finish the game, so it shouldn’t be anything serious.

Midway through the second saw the Cats score again. Liam Coughlin took a BIG shot from the top of the slot that hit the post, but buried his own rebound to double the Cats’ lead. I think he may be due a big year this season.

Cats got another PPG before the end of the period. A long scrum that wouldn’t look out of place in a rugby match in the corner resulted in UVM winning possession. Colton found Darrar at the point, and Darrar set up O’Donnell on the left-hand circle who BOMBED one past Morrison. O’Donnell had three goals all of last season, and starts his sophomore year with a pair in exhibition action.

UVM swapped goalies to begin the third, as Tyler Harmon made his Catamount debut, relieving Lekkas. I thought he looked very solid – calm, and with some pretty good rebound control too. I’m not expecting him to hit the same crazy heights, but his style reminded me a bit of Connor Hellebuyck at UMass Lowell a few years back.

And then there was ANOTHER power play goal midway through the third, one that Morrison would really want to have back. Colton took a shot from just behind the faceoff dot on the right-hand side that Morrison got a piece of, but couldn’t ultimately keep out. It’s 5-1, it’s a bloodbath.

Conor O’Neil, in his first action since November 5 of last year in Lowell, finished the scoring with an absolute SNIPE from the left-hand side. Really happy to see him get on the board after having not played in almost a calendar year.

Some thoughts:

  • Holy moly can these new kids move. There’s a lot of speed on this team. And the defense looks quite mobile.
  • The puck movement was AMAZING. Again, I know it’s not the best competition, but UVM showed what they can do at their best.
  • Cory Thomas looked a bit clumsy with the puck, but he looked like the kind of physical D that this team needed.
  • I know it got him a penalty, but I’m sure Christian Evers won some fans by standing up for his teammate (I didn’t see who it was) after the hit by Daniel Perigo.
  • Matt O’Donnell had probably the best game I’ve seen him play and was able to showcase his strengths as an offensive defenseman.
  • Though he didn’t point (in fact, the only frosh to do so was Evers, who had a secondary assist on the Coughlin goal), Bryce Misley did not disappoint on his Catamount debut. He had some lovely dangles and combined well with his teammates.
  • Brian Bowen did not play. Sneddon said postgame that he’s week to week.
  • There was not a whole lot of dropoff when the team went from playing its more established guys to the new kids (Dzhioshvili, Kaufman, Cowans etc.); there were still chances being created and good puck movement. That shows this team’s got a lot of depth and will score a lot of goals.

The Vermont Hockey Blog Three Stars of the Game

  1. Matt O’Donnell (UVM) – He got a lot of flak last year for some freshman mistakes, but he looked AMAZING tonight with two goals and an assist.
  2. Ross Colton (UVM) – A four point night playing with totally different linemates than the ones he played with much of last season (with Puskarich graduated and Bowen injured). Talk about a great player.
  3. Liam Coughlin (UVM) – Didn’t even noticed until I saw the boxscore, but he had a three point game. I think he’ll take a huge jump this year.

Women’s Preview: UVM @ Providence

So for conference games I’m going to do something different this year in the previews; basically recap their season to date and list three things to watch for.

The preseason is over and now it’s time to dive right into meaningful games…and this one will really be key come March.

Providence is a team expected to compete with the Cats in the Hockey East midtable. Now, there’s really nothing I can say about the Friars that I didn’t already discuss in their preview, which you can find here. After all, it’s a conference game to kick off the regular season. The only thing I can really add to that was the fact that PC kicked the crap out of a pretty bad Union team 7-3 on Friday night down in Schenectady. It was a pretty balanced effort with seven different goal scorers, and only Christina Putigna posted more than two points. They did have to come from down 3-1 though, so that’s something.

Three Things To Watch:

  1. Providence’s Payback Factor.  We all remember that it was UVM that sent the Friars packing in the Hockey East tournament last year, outscoring them 10-3 in the final two games. With most of their roster returning, I’m willing to bet the hosts are hungry for some revenge.
  2. Questions in the Friar Goal. Madison Myers is PC’s starter for a third straight year, and she’s coming off offseason surgery. She gave up 3 goals on just 13 shots against Union and struggled immensely in Hockey East play, with the worst SV% of full-time starters in conference play last year. This could be a weakness the Cats can exploit, especially with her backups being inexperienced.
  3.  Special Teams. Providence went 3 for 4 on the power play in their opening win against Union. The Cats gave up power play goals in both exhibition games, so they have to be careful not to give the Friars easy chances.

Recap: UVM (W) 3, McGill 2

The end of preseason brought one hell of an entertaining game to Gutterson last night.

But by the end, the Cats had one more shot (25 to 24) and one more goal (3 to 2) than the visiting Martlets, who fell to UVM for the first time in the four years these teams have played each other.

McGill started on the front foot, but sometimes all it takes is one moment to change the game’s flow. In this case it was a GREAT pad save by Melissa Black on a three-on-one. Less than two minutes later, Taylor Willard fired a shot from the point that beat a screened Tricia Deguire to put the Catamounts up 1-0. Cats did well to get bodies in front, and the ability to generate chances from the point has been very strong in the preseason thus far. (Also, Val Caldwell had her first college point on the play!)

The second was scoreless, but did see a UVM goalie change as Scobee relieved Black midway through. This was a pre-planned maneuver.

The third got off to a quick start at 4-on-4 play as Ève-Audrey Picard (who else?) ripped one home right off a faceoff just 16 seconds into the frame to double UVM’s lead.

And then it got worse for the visitors just under four minutes later. Kristina Shanahan’s first collegiate goal was a slam dunk on the power play off a great pass by Taylor Flaherty. Shanahan could’ve gone for the one timer but showed great patience, settling the puck before ripping home a beauty of a shot. Martlets head coach Peter Smith called timeout afterwards with his side down 3-0 and the game starting to get away from them.

That turned out to be a fantastic bit of coaching from Smith because McGill weren’t going to go quietly into the night. About three minutes later, they got one back on the PP, as Kellyanne Lecours deflected a shot from Emilia Cotter past Scobee to cut the lead in half.

With just under five minutes to play it became a one goal game. Jade Downie-Landry put together a masterful individual effort, deking around Flaherty and beating Scobee. 3-2. Here comes the heart failure. The Cats were able to hold on, though.

Some thoughts:

  • Alyssa Gorecki was EVERYWHERE. Whether it was tracking back on D or getting involved in the attack, there probably wasn’t a piece of Gutterson ice she didn’t skate on last night.
  • Sammy Kolowrat has looked terrific in preseason, if you ask me. Looked really good out there tonight.
  • Kourtney Menches did not play; she’s in a cast right now. Based on that it’s gonna be at least a month before she’s back on the ice.
  • Really telling how much the staff trusts Olivia Kilberg. She spent most of her time last night on the top line with Valkama and Picard.

The Vermont Hockey Blog Three Stars of the Game

  1. Ève-Audrey Picard (UVM) – A goal, an assist, and a slew of chances created.
  2. Kristina Shanahan (UVM) – First college goal is a game winner.
  3. Emilia Cotter (McG) – Two assists, one of which was the shot that became the first Martlet goal.

Recap: UVM (W) 2, Montréal 2 (OT)

The last time UVM women’s hockey played a home game, the story was the visitors’ Québécois goalie stealing the show, as Léa-Kristine Demers stopped 48 to steal a 3-2 win for Merrimack.

This time, it’s happened again, with Maude Trévisan putting on an absolute clinic, stopping 47 against a UVM team that looked very, very good right out of the gates this season.

When I spoke to Jim Plumer last week, he said that the newcomers had gelled nicely, and there was evidence of this in this matchup. Taylor Flaherty fit the defense like a glove and generated some good looks from the point, while Olivia Kilberg, Kristina Shanahan, and Alyssa Holmes all had some nice flashes in their college debuts.

The Cats opened up the scoring less than two minutes in, with Kilberg taking a shot from the left side that Allie Granato tipped past Trévisan. Really nice heads-up deflection by Granato, who I thought looked very good.

Midway through the first, it was Sammy Kolowrat who doubled the lead, taking a shot from the point. Pretty self explanatory,  bodies in front, really good shot by the Czech defender.

Scary moment late in the period, when Kourtney Menches collided with the goal post after a two-on-one with Ève-Audrey Picard. She did not return; she went off for x-rays, but there is no update at this stage. Let’s hope it’s not serious.

The second was a bit shaky as the Cats took a couple silly penalties and the Carabins scored on the power play, as Noémie Chiasson buried one from the doorstep to cut the lead in half. Annie Germain tapped home a similar goal in the last minute of play, and all of a sudden it was a tie game.

UVM POURED on the pressure in the third period and overtime. In the final 25 minutes of play, UVM outshot the Carabins 21-1. Fair play to Trévisan, who was playing unbelievably and had a really good glove save off Picard (who, though she didn’t point, I thought had a good game).

Some thoughts:

  • The talent on this team is evident. There were some nice sequences of beautiful passing and combination play (the drop pass by Holmes to Kilberg in the second sticks out) as well as individual dangles. I know not all games are going to look like this, but this really is a talented group of players.
  • Greta Close had some silly penalties, but overall had a decent game. Freshman mistakes are going to happen.
  • Can’t really judge how the goalies played against each other simply because Scobee only saw one shot! Black did look solid though, and Natzke played pretty well too. She couldn’t really do anything about either goal as it was just a simple play: pass to the open forward at the far post.
  • Really need to work on finishing up front though. There was lots of buildup, but sometimes struggle to get a shot away. I think there were three or four breakaways and numerous 2 on 1s/3 on 2s. They’re creating, just the finishing is a bit rusty to start. But hey, we’re all rusty after the summer.

The Vermont Hockey Blog Three Stars of the Game

  1. Maude Trévisan (MTL) – 47 saves. I’m not even mad, well played.
  2. Catherine Dubois (MTL) – Feels weird giving the top two spots to a team that was outshot 49-19, but Dubois’s passes set up both Carabin goals.
  3. Sammy Kolowrat (UVM) – Beautiful shot on that second goal, and overall had a solid game defensively. I think she’s in for a sneaky-good year.